Preston is on the brink of losing its iconic football museum to Manchester.
The National Football Museum is to move from its home on Sir Tom Finney Way, Deepdale, to Manchester due to a lack of funding, the Lancashire Evening Post can reveal.
The museum's collections would stay in Preston but front-of-house exhibitions are set to be transferred to the Urbis exhibition centre, Cathedral Gardens.
The bombshell news was met with dismay - with one MP describing it as a "tragedy".
Kevin Moore, museum director, said: "The museum is a great success. The problem we have is turning that funding into adequate financial support.
"One of the things we have done is talk to other cities about a possible relocation.
"I will do all I can to keep the museum here. Nothing has been agreed. We're still hopeful of a Lancashire/Preston solution but the clock is ticking."
The museum opened in 2001 and is home to the world's greatest football collections, including the FIFA Collection.
In December 2008, there was a furious backlash in the city after Football League chairman Lord Brian Mawhinney suggested the museum should move to London.
The free attraction needs just under 1m every year to cover costs and the Football Stadium Improvement Fund (FSIF) stopped its annual contribution of 308,000 in March to direct its cash into grassroots sport.
The museum gets 100,000 visitors a year - but Manchester bosses hope to pull in 400,000 a year.
Mark Hendrick, Preston MP, said: "It's a tragedy. The fact that the history and heritage of the game was born here does not seem to matter to them.
"I'll be working with the museum to do everything that we can to try and find alternative funding so that it can stay in Preston but I must say, at the moment, the chances of that look slim."
The museum has around 30 full-time, part-time and casual staff members.
It currently receives over 100,000 from the DCMS, 25,000 from Preston Council, 25,000 from Lancashire County Council and 20,000 rate relief.
More than 300,000 is raised annually through commercial activity and the remainder has been sourced through cutbacks.
Paul Dermody, museum chairman of trustees, said: "While the museum has gone from success to success in Preston since it opened in 2001, funding has always been a concern.
"But with the backing of Manchester City Council, DCMS and the football family its future will be secured and the museum's success will continue to expand, as the collections and the community work it undertakes will be exposed to a significantly greater audience than at present."
The Millennium Quarter Trust, which oversees the running of Urbis, last week backed the proposals for the move in principal.
Museum chiefs are holding an urgent meeting with Preston City Council on Monday of next week.
It currently has funding in place to operate until December 31.
Football pundit and ex-PNE player Mark Lawrenson said: "Where we have suffered is people think it's PNE's museum. That's always been a problem.
"It's very, very unfortunate but I don't suppose it's a great surprise."
Derek Shaw, Preston North End chairman, said: "If it has to move away from Preston, I think that would be very sad for the city."
"Obviously the ones who supply the funding are the ones who will make that decision.
For more reaction to this story, see Tuesday's Lancashire Evening Post.
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